Folklore medicine and Indigenous herbs

Traditional (folklore) medicine comprises knowledge systems that developed over generations within various societies before the era of modern medicine. It is the sum total of the knowledge, skills, and practices based on the theories, beliefs, and experiences indigenous to different cultures, whether explicable or not, used in the maintenance of health as well as in the prevention, diagnosis, improvement or treatment of physical and mental illness. Folk medicine consists of the healing practices and ideas of body physiology and health preservation known to some in a culture, transmitted informally as general knowledge, and practiced or applied by anyone in the culture having prior experience. In the written record, the study of herbs dates back 5,000 years to the ancient Sumerians, who described well-established medicinal uses for plants. In Ancient Egyptian medicine, the Ebers papyrus from c. 1552 BC records a list of folk remedies and magical medical practices. The Old Testament also mentions herb use and cultivation in regards to Kashrut.
Siddha Medicine is usually considered as the oldest medical system known to mankind. Siddha is reported to have surfaced more than 10,000 years ago. “Siddhargal” or Siddhars were the premier scientists of ancient time. Siddhars were mainly concentrated in ancient Tamilakam (present period South India), and laid the foundation for this system of medication. Siddhars are alchemists, mathematicians and philosophers. Most of these masters, apart from being knowledgeable in other fields, practice medicine as well. They are considered to have acquired the ashta siddhis (the eight supernatural powers). Agathiyar was the first Siddhar. Many herbs and minerals used in Ayurveda were described by ancient Indian herbalists such as Charaka and Sushruta during the 1st millennium BC. Project 365 photographer Pee Vee (Venkatesan Perumal) has been creating photographic visuals of the folklore doctors, and indigenous herbs and its ecological surroundings, the mineral deposits, etc., Pee Vee is a Photographer and Entrepreneur, with limitless passion to capture light. He is a Chemical Engineer with an MBA. Prior to advertising, he was an agriculturist, sold insurance and designed web banners. He is born in Tamil Nadu.

Erukku (giant milkweed) / Photography (C) Abul Kalam Azad / Project 365 public photo archives
Erukku (giant milkweed) / Photography (C) Abul Kalam Azad / Project 365 public photo archives

Errukku (Giant Milkweed / Asclepiadacea family) is one of the most commonly found medicinal plants in our surroundings. The plant is a medium sized shrub and is commonly found in dry regions across India. The plant is called by the name arka meaning sun in Ayurveda due its high potency and sharpness. The plant is mainly a toxic corrosive plant, however, when someone uses properly it has eminent medicinal utility. In our folklore medicine and culture, this plant is used for treating illness and plant’s flower, both the blue and white variety are used as an offering to the deity Ganesha. one of the important deities. In spite of its medicinal value and sacredness, it is not grown in home gardens as it is believed to be the shelter of yakshis (demon goddesses). The useful parts of the plant are its leaves, root, bark, flower and latex. The latex of the plant is used by ayurveda practitioners for ksarasutra preparation as a binding agent. The toxic effect of the plant causes drastic purgation and leads to bruises on skin. The medically purified plant is used to treat hemorrhoids, abdominal conditions, skin disorders, worm infestation, respiratory track, and various other ailments. The plant has a beautiful seed which is hydroscopic in nature and flies in air, a chase and catch play tool for children. The latex is collected preferably during early morning by giving a nip to the stem. The flowers are beautiful to look but do not have any particular odour. The leaves of plant are soft and smooth. The latex of the erukku is used for malingering criminal offenses.

Erukku (giant milkweed) / smart phone photography (C) Abul Kalam Azad /  Project 365 public photo archives
Erukku (giant milkweed) / smart phone photography (C) Abul Kalam Azad / Project 365 public photo archives
Erukku (giant milkweed) / Photography (C) Pee Vee / Project 365 public photo archives
Erukku (giant milkweed) / Photography (C) Pee Vee / Project 365 public photo archives


All rights reserved. All the images published in this page is copyrighted property of the author (photographer) and is a part of PROJECT 365 PUBLIC PHOTO ARCHIVES. Text by Tulsi Swarna Lakshmi / EtP. Plant research and description by Dr. Mahima Rahman. Reprinting / publishing rights reserved by the author and/or EtP (PROJECT 365 public archives). Prior permission is required for reproduction / re-publishing for non-commercial public use and research. For more information contact EtP at {0}4175 237405 / {0}94879 56405 / /

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